Today, Senate Republicans prioritized spending on children, the elderly, and people with disabilities with a $2.2 billion increase to Minnesota’s Health and Human Services (HHS) budget for the 2018-19 biennium. The $14 billion bill increases funding for a considerable number of programs focused on helping people with disabilities develop life skills, caring for the elderly, and ending the cycle of poverty for at-risk kids. The bill also takes steps to address the opioid addiction and sex trafficking crises in Minnesota, and for the first time in 30 years, it includes a double-digit cash increase for the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), which helps working poor families with children.
HHS is the second largest part of Minnesota’s state budget and has the fastest growing need due to demographic changes in the state’s population. The previous HHS budget left a $590 million hole for the 2018-19 biennium, including $135 million in payment delays and $455 million in temporary funding from the Health Care Access Fund. The Governor’s 2018-19 budget proposal includes another $732 million in temporary funding from the Health Care Access Fund, and relies on reinstituting the 2% provider tax, which is scheduled to end in 2020.
“I’m proud of Republicans’ work prioritizing people in the HHS budget. Our budget increases investments in programs that work to end the cycle of poverty and provide the best care for vulnerable Minnesotans,” said Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “When Republicans took over, we were faced with an immediate budget hole in Health and Human Services caused by years of mismanagement, with no sustainable plan to keep programs afloat. It will take more than one budget cycle to fill that hole, but we’re on the right path.”
“It’s all about priorities and making promises we can keep. Our priority is serving people with disabilities, the frail elderly, and kids,” said Senator Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), Chair of the Senate Human Services Reform Committee.
Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), Chair of the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, added, “Caring for seniors should be a priority, not an afterthought. This budget will help identify problems in our long-term care system, find solutions, and provide targeted funding to improve the quality of care for our seniors.”
Key reforms in the bill include:
- Expansion of primary care networks to provide more consumer choice in health care, particularly in rural Minnesota, by expanding the definition of certified health care homes.
- Required in-depth OLA audits of managed care payments like Minnesota Care and Medical Assistance.
Key investments include:
- Safe emergency housing and services for sexually exploited youth, and funding for statewide youth outreach workers to address the sex trafficking crisis.
- Evidence Based Nurse Home Visiting for first-time mothers and their young children, which has proven to increase third grade reading and significantly decrease the likelihood families will become dependent on Medical Assistance.
- A double-digit cash increase for the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), the first increase in over 30 years, which helps working poor families with children.
- Grants for counties to develop innovative solutions to the opioid addiction crisis, which may be modeled after a highly successful program in Morrison County.
- A funding increase for Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives, which provides mental health services to at-risk youth with severe emotional disturbances.
- A rate increase for Personal Care Attendants who care for severely disabled Minnesotans.
- Increases to the Day Training and Habilitation and Independent Living programs, which help people with developmental disabilities develop life skills to live independently in a community setting.
- First-time funding for the At-Home Infant Care program, which provides financial assistance to families who qualify for state childcare aid if a parent instead stays home to care for their infant under one-year-old.
- An increase in reimbursements for Elderly Waivers that help seniors pay for in-home services so they can stay in their homes longer.
- Increased funding for the Office of Health Facilities Complaints to investigate complaints of abuse of vulnerable adults in nursing home and assisted living settings.